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Defying DAR, Lapanday invokes rule of law

/ 12:20 AM May 26, 2017

News reports (sourced from the Philippine News Agency) that Lapanday backs President Duterte’s stance on agrarian dispute in Madaum, Tagum City, Davao del Norte, are a poor attempt to turn truth on its head.  It tries to frame Lapanday as the victim and the land reform beneficiaries, members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (Marbai), as the culprits.

Last April 18 and 21, Lapanday deployed around 800 armed guards to prevent the enforcement of the Department of Agrarian Reform order to re-install Marbai members on lands originally awarded to them through the government’s land reform program. On Dec. 12 last year, Lapanday guards shot at protesting farmers, wounding seven of them, then on New Year’s Eve evicted the farmers from their lands. This, eight years after Lapanday forced the beneficiaries (FWBs) out of the very lands awarded to them, and then prohibited their reentry.

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In fact, as early as 1998, Lapanday had turned the FWBs into powerless cash-cows. It did so by luring the FWBs into a one-sided agribusiness venture agreement (AVA), the Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement (BSMA). This gave Lapanday all the power to decide the scale of production, the flow of credit and capital, the sale of products, the kind of crops to be planted, the class-assessment of products, and the technology to be used in production—even the right to take over the whole operation during arbitrary “special cases.”

Also, under the agreement, Lapanday buys from FWBs supposedly Class B bananas for P40/box, then sells them abroad at P1,196/box as Class A bananas. Production costs are shouldered by the FWBs. With the FWBs stripped of their rights, Lapanday profits hugely.

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All in violation of the “government’s basic policy” on agrarian reform. As repeatedly emphasized by the Supreme Court rulings on Luisita, “control over the agricultural land must always be in the hands of the farmers.” It may be the hands of FWBs working on the lands in Madaum, but it is Lapanday who has effective control of the lands and the agricultural production.

AVAs are similar to the lamentable stock distribution option (SDO) scheme that was implemented by President Cory Aquino in Luisita and put FWBs into inequitable arrangements that only mired them deeper into poverty and debt. AVAs have become the new way hacenderos are perverting agrarian reform. In both schemes, landlords deceive, coerce and force farmers into agreements that stripped them of control over their lands. This is the reason hundreds of Marbai FWBs rejected the AVA with Lapanday. These farmers are now rightly demanding control of their lands, and even President Duterte has expressed support for them.

Hacenderos have long used the legal system and government functions as means of legitimizing their outmoded claims (e.g., the colonial hacienda system was legal). And the worst of them have no qualms about violating laws in pursuit of higher profits. We have seen this in the Mendiola and Hacienda Luisita massacres where state forces opened fire at protesting farmers.

LESTER GUETA,

National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates-Youth, 56 K-9th St., West Kamias, Quezon City

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TAGS: agrarian reform, DAR, department of agrarian reform, Inquirer letters, Inquirer Opinion, land reform, Lapanday, Rodrigo Duterte
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